Sea and Sardinia: Parade of Starwoods

  • Michael Schulze & Shaun Tolson

Beginning in the early 1960s, as the Aga Khan developed Porto Cervo, his reach extended along Costa Smeralda, where he built several hotels. He ultimately sold the properties to Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which in turn sold the majority of its holdings to billionaire real estate investor Thomas Barrack Jr. in 2003. Starwood continues to manage the hotels, and they continue to bear the Starwood name.


Many visitors to Costa Smeralda do not sleep in hotels: Their yachts suffice. Those seeking land accommodations will find that almost every top-notch hotel in the area is a Starwood, with a few exceptions.


Room rates vary widely, reaching their highest during the peak season in July and August. Many hotels are open only from late spring through fall.

Cala di Volpe
This 125-room, white stucco “Cove of the Fox,” built in 1963 and renovated in 2001, has grown into an international gathering place for the jet set. Situated by the Cala di Volpe Bay south of Porto Cervo, it features a surprisingly casual design by French architect Jacques Couëlle and later by his son Savin, with juniper wood floors, trompe l’oeil wall paintings, and chairs with backs shaped like fox heads. The presidential suite, one of the most expensive in the world at about $36,000 nightly during the high season, leads to a private pool on the rooftop, with a fine view of the Mediterranean. Nearby is the original 10-room structure where the Aga Khan once resided. Open March through October.


Hotel Pitrizza
Favored by honeymooners, this is a place not to see and be seen but to hide away. Situated about five minutes from Porto Cervo, the hotel contains 55 rooms scattered among 12 villas that overlook the bay of Liscia di Vacca. The hotel’s two-bedroom presidential suite, which features a private swimming pool and butler service, runs about $19,000 per night in the high season. Open May through October. 


Hotel Romazzino
Romazzino is a local word for rosemary, which scents the arches, pergolas, and patios of this 94-room getaway. With its waterskiing school, boat-hire facilities, beachside swimming pool, and children’s playground, this hotel offers the area’s best accommodations for families. Rooms are priced from about $1,200 to $3,000 per night. Open April through October.


Cervo Hotel
This Sheraton sits in the heart of Porto Cervo, yards from the marina and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. With three pools, five tennis courts, a squash court, a gymnasium, a sauna, and massage and physiotherapy rooms, this is a sportsman’s hotel. Rates for the presidential suite begin at about $3,000 per night in the peak season. Nearby shops offer Versace, Gucci, Ferré, and other luxury brands. The hotel is open all year.


Grand Hotel
Situated on Cala Granu Bay about a mile from Porto Cervo, the 115-room Grand Hotel—not a Starwood property—includes a variety of sporting facilities, including a soccer field, tennis court, and 4,300-square-foot swimming pool. The building’s stucco walls are painted in grand Mediterranean fashion, in striking shades of red, pink, and coral. Rates for large rooms range from about $250 to $375 per night in the high season. Open April through September.


Costa Smeralda also offers excellent snorkeling, miles of white-sand beaches, and the Pevero Golf Club, a Starwood property located close to the Cala di Volpe hotel. The par-72 course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., is well suited for match play, but do not be surprised if the winds between the Gulf of Pevero and Cala di Volpe Bay add a few strokes to your score. Green fees are about $140 in the peak season.


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